Vernice (Hopie) Randall ’11 M.Div.
B.A. Concordia College (New York) 2008
When I entered Yale Divinity School, I brought with me a series of mixed emotions. Little wonder, since I was constantly being warned by those who have journeyed this path about the “pitfalls and traps of the academy.” I entered being open to the process; now, three years later, having graduated in May, already my heart smiles at the memories created at this institution.
My journey at YDS has been challenging but has also been one of the most liberating experiences of my life. The profound impact of this experience has changed me in a hundred different ways. In 2008 I walked away from a very lucrative career at a prestigious Manhattan law firm and entered Yale Divinity School to begin a theological education as I discerned the call of God on my life to ministerial vocation. As I began this process of education, self-discovery and discernment, YDS met me head on with the ride of a lifetime.
My studies exposed me to fields of learning far beyond my limited interests, and the more I learned, the more I realized how little I knew. The school provided accountability and required standards of excellence that caused me to be stretched to cultivate and practice structure, self-discipline and self-management. I was challenged to sharpen my thinking not only in the classroom and academic curriculum but also in interaction with others. Through these valuable interactions, I was exposed to a wide variety of views and interpretations that helped me develop openness and critical thinking skills. These three years significantly improved my social maturity and my ability to understand and relate to a diverse group of people and their needs and to connect the Christian faith to everyday life. YDS was for me a time of deconstruction and re-construction, growth, learning, formation and genuine elucidation about who God is, who God is not, and who God has made me to be. I have recognized that what I have attained at YDS is the result of an affirming, supportive and nurturing community of faculty, staff and colleagues.
My journey at YDS was like a drive on the historic Merritt Parkway that meanders through Connecticut’s Fairfield County into New York City. It is a roadway that twists and turns and inspires serious focus, respect, reverence, attentiveness and even frustration. The ride is pretty and picturesque no matter the season. When driving down this narrow highway, one must engage in critical thinking skills, utilize wisdom, maintain focus and learn to effectively navigate its winding curves and sloping hills. One does not always know what might be around the corner and over the hills if one blasts through too fast. Fast drivers might find themselves woefully unprepared for the dangerous turns.
As I began my ride on this beautiful highway of theological education, it was filled with bumps, twists and turns. But I learned how to navigate the roads, pace myself with learning, slowing down sometimes, speeding up other times, jockeying for my own position and point of view, yet learning how to stop, listen to and accommodate others’ point of views. I learned how to view a variety of issues through a different lens and to be open to new ways of thinking and being. Some days were extremely unpleasant, while others were fantastically enjoyable and memorable. Along the way I developed significant interest and found new passions, particularly in homiletics and pastoral care.
As my ride at Yale ends and I descend this hill, I leave equipped with new ministerial competence and a new, solid academic foundation for future learning. I will now merge onto another highway that will take me into ordination and service in the church. I will also continue my journey into further graduate studies in homiletics and pastoral care. I hope to further examine the two-way street that exists at the intersection of preaching and pastoral care.
I am grateful to have spent this time at YDS—this phenomenal, academically rigorous institution with a “heartbeat.” For me, this stopover at YDS is a story of God’s providence leading me to places familiar and unfamiliar and calling me to the work of the Kingdom even before I can grasp the larger picture. I am excited about the opportunities that have unfolded and are continuing to unfold. My only response to all of this is to say, “To God be the Glory!”